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Ten Goodyear Innovations that Changed the World

The straight-side tyre (1901)

In 1901, Goodyear created the first straight-side tyre. The major innovation in this new tyre design was the addition of a braided piano wire to the tyre’s bead. The wire was cured into the bead, which held the tyre onto the rim with a complicated set of locks. Since the tyre didn’t curve in to fit the rim, as its forerunner did, it could hold 10 percent more compressed air, providing a more comfortable ride and improving traction. Goodyear also adopted the Wingfoot trademark to advertise it; a symbol of the company’s commitment to innovation and quality, and one that is still used today.

The quick detachable tyre (1906)

Goodyear soon started producing the world’s first quick-detachable tyre, which featured a straight-side design that provided a smoother ride due to its increased air pressure, and a resilient rivet fabric that absorbed road shocks and eliminated the issue of tearing at the rim. The manufacturing process of the tyre meant that, unlike its previous products, it required a new rim. As a result, Goodyear had to target the original equipment market by selling directly to auto manufacturers. Goodyear’s future was therefore dependent on this tyre, as it was a truly superior product that the company wanted to showcase to the world. To do so, the company launched a bold advertising campaign that featured ads for the “Quick, Detachable, 10% Oversize, No Rim Cut, Straight Side Tyre” in American publications such as The Saturday Evening Post.

The State-Seiberling tyre building machine (1909)

In February 1909, The New York Times reported that Goodyear had recently put into operation four machines that significantly improved both quality and manufacturing capacity of its tyres. William State and Frank Seiberling patented a machine in 1909 that transformed the tyre industry from manual to mechanised production, allowing for a more efficient process. Two men operating each machine could produce an average of 37 tyres per eight-hour shift, sparing workers from carrying up to 250 pounds of iron core and layers of fabric and rubber on their shoulders. The machine also maximised factory space, leading to a thirty-fold increase in Goodyear’s unit tyre production from 1908 to 1912, with only a four-fold increase in floor space. Following its success, Goodyear subsequently granted 50 licences for other industry players to use the machine, and by 1913, more than half of all tyres made in the United States were produced using Seiberling and State’s invention.

The Wingfoot Express (1917)

In 1917, Paul Litchfield, a manager at Goodyear’s Akron plant, believed that equipping heavy trucks with pneumatic tyres would enable them to travel long distances, carrying heavy loads with ease. To test his theory, Goodyear workers embarked on a 1,540-mile round trip from Akron to Connecticut on the Wingfoot Express, a Packard truck outfitted with large pneumatic tyres. This new and innovative feature came when solid rubber tyres were the norm for short-distance transportation. Despite encountering numerous challenges, the crew persisted and completed the first leg of the journey in 24 days, covering 740 miles. Improved tyres were immediately available after the trip, and the success of the Wingfoot Express paved the way for long-haul trucking. The trip established the first interstate trucking route by making regular nonstop runs, proving the potential of pneumatic tyres for long-distance transportation.

The first mass produced synthetic rubber tyre (1937)

Goodyear developed and tested the first mass produced, American-made synthetic rubber tyre in 1937, utilising Chemigum, the company’s first synthetic rubber substance, which was patented a decade earlier in 1927. Goodyear’s tyre factory in Jackson, Michigan, started producing it and the newly introduced Pliolite, a bonding agent that attaches rubber to metal, was integrated into the new tyres. Additionally, a new packaging item named Pliofilm was also introduced.

Goodyear produces Corsair aeroplanes for WWII (1939)

Goodyear played a significant role in World War II by manufacturing fighter planes for the U.S military. The Goodyear Aircraft Corporation, as it was known at the time, was granted contracts to build Vought F4U Corsair aircraft (initially designed by Chance Vought) after demand increased for the model. In total, Goodyear manufactured 4,017 FG Corsair aircraft, which first flew in 1943. Goodyear later manufactured ten F2G Corsair aircraft, which became known as the ‘Super Corsair’ in 1945. These aircraft featured a 28-cylinder Pratt & Whitney engine and were designed for low-altitude interception. During the war, Goodyear Aircraft Corporation’s workforce grew from 30 to an impressive 35,000 in just two-and-a-half years.

The moving walkway (1954)

In 1954, Goodyear built the world’s first commercial passenger conveyor belt for the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, ushering in a new era of efficient travel for commuters. The Speedwalk, as it was named, covered an impressive 84.5 metres, had a 10 percent grade incline, and maintained a steady speed of 2.4 km/h (1.5 mph), showcasing Goodyear’s commitment to innovation. Despite being removed a few years later due to changing traffic patterns, the Speedwalk remains a testament to American engineering’s pioneering spirit and technological progress.

Goodyear produces Polyglas tyre (1967)

In 1967, Goodyear unveiled the bias-belted Goodyear Polyglas tyre, which featured fibreglass belts and a wider tread than other tyres available at the time. ‘Polyglas’ was a registered trademark of the company. This tyre type combined the characteristics of both bias-ply and radial-ply tyres, and was initially engineered to be used as original equipment on muscle cars during the late 1960s. The new design included stabilising circumference belts placed directly beneath the tread, which reduced tread ‘squirm’ and improved road holding performance, ultimately increasing the tyre’s mileage. The tyre’s popularity grew and, from 1969 to 1974, it became standard or optional equipment on most passenger cars.

The STARAN computer (1972)

The Goodyear Space-Time Automatic Range Analyser (STARAN) computer was the first commercially available computer designed around an associative memory, becoming available in 1972. The STARAN computer was developed and built by Goodyear Aerospace Corporation (previously known as the Goodyear Aircraft Company during WWII), and it was a content-addressable parallel processor (CAPP), a type of parallel processor that used content-addressable memory – what we know today as a search engine. The computer used complex algorithms and advanced signal processing techniques to analyse incoming radar signals, meaning it was capable of tracking multiple targets simultaneously and providing real-time information to pilots and ground control. The STARAN was a significant breakthrough during the Cold War and was used by NASA for tracking spacecraft trajectories. Its development paved the way for modern computing and signal processing technology.

Goodyear RunOnFlat fitted as standard for the first time (1997)

In 1997, Goodyear revolutionised tyre technology by introducing the Goodyear Eagle F1 GS Extended Mobility Tire (EMT) for the Corvette, now known as RunOnFlat, eliminating the need for the car to carry a spare tyre and jack. These had a low-pressure warning system and could run up to 200 miles at 55 mph with zero inflation pressure. The tyre’s cutting-edge technology, innovative mould shape, sidewall reinforcements and bead area allowed it to remain mounted on a conventional wheel during severe cornering. Unlike other run-flat tyres available at the time, which required expensive and special wheels, the Goodyear solution was a significant improvement. The elimination of the spare tyre and jack also reduced the car’s weight, further enhancing its performance. The Eagle M+S, a mud-and-snow version was also developed.